By Ken Ritter
LAS VEGAS — A Nevada judge set the stage Friday for former football star O.J. Simpson to testify for the first time in the Las Vegas armed robbery and kidnapping case that resulted in his conviction and lengthy prison sentence.
Simpson appeals lawyers Patricia Palm and Ozzie Fumo said following a brief date-setting hearing in Las Vegas that they anticipate Simpson will take the stand to testify that he was so poorly represented by his trial attorneys that he should be freed and get a new trial.
"He looks forward to defending himself," Fumo said.
Simpson wasn't in the courtroom as Clark County District Court Judge Linda Marie Bell set the evidentiary hearing for May 13.
Simpson, now 65, was convicted at trial in 2008 of leading five men, including two with guns, in a September 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers and a middleman in a cramped room at a Las Vegas casino-hotel. He was sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison.
Simpson maintained he was trying to retrieve personal mementoes, photos and other items stolen following his 1995 acquittal in the Los Angeles slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. That televised proceedings were dubbed the "trial of the century" by some tabloid media.
Simpson never testified at the Los Angeles criminal trial, but memorably demonstrated in court that a glove found near the slaying scene didn't fit his hand. He testified at length in a wrongful death trial that led a Los Angeles civil court jury in 1997 to find him liable for damages in the case.
In Las Vegas, Bell agreed last month to hear evidence and consider 18 of 22 questions cited in Simpson's appeal for a new Nevada trial. The judge also granted a waiver of attorney-client privilege on questions in dispute between Simpson and his trial lawyer, Yale Galanter.
The appeal alleges that Galanter had personal financial and business interests that posed a conflict that should have precluded him from handling Simpson's case.
Galanter did not immediately respond to messages Friday. He denied during trial that he had anything to do with the ill-fated Las Vegas caper, but Palm asserts that the trial judge never fully explored the question.
Simpson claims Galanter advised him that the plan to confront the two memorabilia dealers was legally permissible as long as no one trespassed on private property and no physical force was used.
Simpson claims Galanter advised him not to testify at trial in Las Vegas, and that he was never told that the Clark County district attorney offered a pretrial deal that could have gotten him two to five years in prison if he pleaded guilty to robbery.
Palm said Simpson would have taken the offer.
Simpson's appeal specifically exempts Las Vegas attorney Gabriel Grasso from allegations of ineffective representation.
Grasso served as Simpson's trial co-counsel with Galanter, and is now suing Galanter in federal court in Nevada, alleging breach of contract.
Galanter has a defamation lawsuit pending in Miami against Grasso, Simpson's previous appeals attorney Malcolm LaVergne, and Grasso's lawyer in the breach of contract case.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press